3 stars (out of four)
A few years back, Jennifer Aniston shed her polished sitcom image to play Justine, a poor, rural young woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown in the indie gem "The Good Girl."
A small-town clerk at a small-time store, Justine felt suffocated by her lot in life, desperate for adventure and trapped in an unfulfilling marriage. With stringy hair and shabby clothes, Aniston seemed far from Central Perk. But in truth, Justine -- a Texas girl who wants more out of life than just an employee discount at Retail Rodeo--wasn't so different from Rachel Green. Take away those designer duds and rich dad and you've got two women frustrated by the stuff they don't know, trying every day to know a little more. (What? You never watched "Friends"? Please.)
This is fast becoming Aniston's trademark, and thankfully she again does it well in "Rumor Has It ," Rob Reiner's easygoing but surprisingly likable comedy about the Pasadena family that inspired "The Graduate."
Let me set one thing straight: I expected to loathe this film, both for its blasted ellipses and blatant exploitation of that most classic of American romantic comedies. But then, well, it's fun.
Bye, bye principles.
Aniston plays Sarah Huttinger, a burned-out New York Times obit writer in early midlife crisis who is scared to settle down with boyfriend Jeff (Mark Ruffalo) and stifled by her prim and proper Pasadena upbringing, where if you don't play tennis, you don't fit in.Back in Pasadena for her chirpy sister Annie's country-club wedding, Sarah learns her family's deepest, darkest, hippest secret from Shirley MacLaine's "Don't call me Grandma" Katharine: That family long-rumored to be the inspiration for Charles Webb's 1963 novel and its subsequent Mike Nichols film? Sarah's.
Yes, Sarah's mom (long deceased) and grandmother slept with the same man, a sexy boy hunk named Beau Burroughs, a.k.a. Benjamin Braddock. And yes, that makes Katharine Mrs. Robinson. And wait a minute! As Sarah crunches dates like a good little obit writer, she realizes that this Beau character may just be her real father.
So she runs off to San Francisco to find Beau -- now an Internet mogul with a little less hair and a little more wear -- with the hope that, by figuring out her godforsaken family, she'll make some sense of herself.
If this all sounds gimmicky, well, it is. But with MacLaine doing her best grande dame and Kevin Costner as swinging single Beau, it's brassy and juicy and emotionally satisfying. Give in. (And just forget about the whole Kevin Costner-Dustin Hoffman dilemma. Just put it out of your mind. The end.)
Costner has settled into his ideal persona -- the aging loner with a twinkle in his eye. Playing a washed-up baseball player and gentle drunk, he was the best thing about Mike Binder's "The Upside of Anger," and here, too, he's playful and sexy and wise and immature and sad all at once. This guy Beau? He's lived.
And yet, like everyone else in "Rumor Has It," he's still waiting for that elusive prize called true happiness.
"You want more out of your life?" Katharine asks Sarah, after sensing her granddaughter's early-30s paralysis.
"Yes!" Sarah exclaims.
"Get in line."
`Rumor Has It...'
Directed by Rob Reiner; written by T.M. Griffin; photographed by Peter Deming; edited by Robert Leighton; production designed by Tom Sanders; music by Marc Shaiman; produced by Paula Weinstein and Ben Cosgrove. A Warner Bros. Pictures release; opens Sunday, Dec. 25. Running time: 1:37. MPAA rating: PG-13 (mature thematic material, sexual content, crude humor and a drug reference).
Sarah Huttinger -- Jennifer Aniston
Beau Burroughs -- Kevin Costner
Katharine -- Shirley MacLaine
Jeff -- Mark Ruffalo
Annie Huttinger -- Mena Suvari
Earl Huttinger -- Richard Jenkins